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Beneath the Shadows by Sara Foster
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A year ago Grace, her husband Adam and newly born daughter Millie started living in the little cottage on the Yorkshire moors that Adam inherited from his grandparents. One day, upon returning from shopping, Grace finds the house deserted and a note from Adam that he'll be back soon and must talk to her. But he doesn't come back. Later that evening she finds Millie in her pram on the doorstep, but no sign of Adam. The police try to find him, but have no luck. Now Grace is back, sorting through things in the cottage hoping to discover clues. A handsome man, Ben, who is house-sitting for some neighbours, helps her with renovations so she might rent the cottage out next summer. It's a very small hamlet, and Grace is invited for lunch and dinner at the big house, where it seems matriarch Meredith shows special interest in Grace and her cottage. Do the locals know more about Adam's disappearance?

The author knows how to raise questions. Early on Grace is concerned by the number of big black dogs in the village and the reader worries if it'll turn into one of those werewolf stories and Adam is now a werewolf. Then Dracula is mentioned: a vampire story? Meredith has four daughters and in a shop Grace spots witches' broomsticks: a witch story? And all the time ghosts are mentioned; Adam's grandmother wrote a book about the ghosts on the moors, Meredith claims her house is haunted, the grandfather clock in Grace's cottage stops and starts without reason, so is it a ghost story then? Or are these all supernatural red herrings and is there an evil person at work? Ben won't explain what he really is doing in the village, which leaves room for a spy story. Several references are made to Daphne du Maurier's "Rebecca": could Adam be another Maxim de Winter? Or is it none of the above?
Asking questions to mystify a story is a great way to pull a reader into the story. Their imagination trying to find the answers will create lots of little stories of their own, making the reading experience much richer. However, there is the risk that the reader's answers make more sense than the one the author finally comes up with and then the reader will feel let down. Which happened to me, I'm sorry to say. I'd even have preferred the werewolf version...
Before this final disappointment I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It's well written and Grace comes alive, just like her surroundings: the little cottage that needs to give up its secrets, the tiny village, the moors, the Christmas setting, the snow. I'd recommend reading the story in winter and also not to worry about the outcome, just enjoy the journey.
My verdict, a 6 out of 10
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